You have been warned.
I can easily say this is one of the most bizarre Janeite pieces I have ever read. I was really unsure in the beginning, but as it went along, I found myself getting more and more into this peculiar little story.
Ellen Gelerman has written a complete overhaul of one of the most famous scenes from Pride and Prejudice - the drawing room scene that takes place after dinner, when Elizabeth is staying at Netherfield, tending a sick Jane (you know, the one where it becomes clear Darcy likes Lizzie - and Caroline knows...) Basically, in Gelerman's version, the ragout the group had at supper had "magic" mushrooms as one of the ingredients, which everyone but Caroline (who disdains mushrooms) blithely consumed. And the most hilarious, bizarre, completely unexpected but logical Austensian acid-trip follows. ('shroom trip? Is there a separate word for this? I know not.)
Picture this: all of the characters (your beloved, sacred characters) are high except Caroline Bingley. Mr Darcy has a little trouble hiding his feelings for Lizzie in this state, and can't help but touch her, and drug-state Lizzie feels like she's being caressed by a waterfall. Making out happens. Bingley's humming in a corner. The Hursts are doing whatever the Hursts do. And Caroline is the only sane one in the bunch, which is a frightening place to be. And as disgusted as she is that Darcy would dare kiss Elizabeth Bennet, well, she can't help but be a little curious, can she?
Yeah, that's basically this story. It is so utterly out of left field that it's shocking at first, and the Austen purist inside recoils. But like Caroline upon seeing Darcy-on-Lizzie lovin', you can't help but lock the door, draw a little closer and watch it all unfold. I found myself cracking up whilst reading this. It's so ridiculous to think of your favorite, proper Regency characters doing and saying and thinking any of the things they do, but as bizarre as it all is, it stays true to character in a very interesting way. The best part is most certainly Caroline's reaction to it all: her attempts to bring them to order, hide it from the servants - and later, when she realizes the mushrooms must have been "tainted" and that Darcy's inappropriateness toward Lizzie may make him feel he must offer to marry her - to hide it from themselves (oh, and snagging a bag of the "tainted" mushrooms after scolding the cook, to save for a private dinner with Darcy...). It was all very funny and seems written in a spirit of playfulness above all else.
I'd highly recommend this slim little story to those with a sense of humor (and even the purists who are in need of a shake-up). I promise it is unlike any Austensian story you've read.
A Long Strange Trip can be found in Road to Pemberley,
edited by Marsha Altman.
Ulysses Press, July 1st 2011.
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